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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Cardiovascular Health Channel
Reported November 9, 2011

New Ways to Save Hearts

DURHAM, NC ( Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A half a million people die of heart disease each year.  Now new game changing procedures are saving hearts and lives. What’s new today will be the norm tomorrow.

Your heart beats 70 times a minute, a hundred thousand times a day. But each day, 2,500 hearts stop. Now three new game changers are keeping more hearts beating strong

“To me, each time it’s done, it’s like a miracle,” Robert Siegal, M.D, at Cedars Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, told Ivanhoe.

Even doctors are in awe that heart valves can now be replaced without open heart surgery.

“Within an hour in the cath lab, they’ve gone from having an 85 year old valve to a valve that’s brand new,” Dr.Siegal said.

Retired meat cutter Will Neighbors avoided going under the knife himself after he was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis. His heart valve was calcified, hardening and failing.

“I just really couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t much more than walk across the floor, and then I just had to labor to do that,” Will said..

Duke cardiologists replaced his old valve with a new pig valve delivered on the end of a catheter through a groin artery to the heart.

“Rather than removing the valve this catheter-based system is a stent that opens and pushes the old scarred valve out of the way,” Kevin Harrison, M.D., a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center, told Iexplained.

Studies show 50% of patients who used drugs to help their stenosis died within a year. Compare that to just 30% who had their valve replaced without open heart surgery.

“It looks like a child’s aortic valve,” Dr. Siegal said.

Just one week after another life-saving heart surgery, Brian Bennett enjoys playing hoops with his son. Several of Brian’s arteries around his heart were clogged with a buildup of fat and cholesterol.

“I was a walking time bomb,” Brian said..

He is one of the first to get a same-day coronary angioplasty where tiny balloons are inflated into the blocked arteries. Traditionally, cardiologists access the heart by threading a catheter through an artery in the leg. Now they’ve changed their approach, starting at the wrist.

“Because the artery in your wrist is right on the surface, it’s very visible. It’s right next to ta bone. You can easily stop any bleeding,” Adam Greenbaum, M.D,  a Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Henry Ford Hospital, said.

The risk of bleeding is less and patients can go home the same day. Brian was out of the hospital in six hours. And for some, stents are life-savers to keep arteries open.  Now, a new stent could do the job, and then dissolve away.

“The vessel needs to be supported for three to four months, after that it heals to the point where it’s no longer at risk for the collapse,” Stephen Ellis, M.D., an interventional cardiologist  at the Cleveland Clinic, said.

On traditional stents, there’s a high risk of blood clots forming on the stent setting off a heart attack. At just 41 years old, Willi Hampton knows the danger.

“It started to feel heavy like someone was sitting on my chest,” Willi told Ivanhoe.

That heaviness ended in stroke. Doctors hope patients like him will benefit from the absorbable stents. They provide support to blood vessels, release anti-scarring medication and then disappear.

“The goal is to make this sort of stent the gold standard,” Dr.Ellis said.

Another game changer, we’ve known for some time that statins lower bad cholesterol. Now doctors are using drugs like Zocor, Lipitor and Crestor for people who do not have high cholesterol, but still have increased inflammation in the body. It can also lead to heart disease.  If heart disease runs in your family, but your HDL is normal, ask your doctor for a blood test to check your inflammation level. MORE

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Click here for additional research on New Ways to Save Hearts

Click here for Ivanhoe's full-length interview Dr. Robert Siegal

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at

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